Over the past couple of weeks, James Hinchcliffe has been busy testing the 2018 aero kits. Recently, Popular Open Wheel’s Ashley McCubbin caught up with the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver to get his thoughts, and more.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: You’ve gotten to test the new aero kits a couple times. What are your initial impressions?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: So far, everything has been very promising. The series had a set list of things that they wanted to accomplish with the new car before we went racing for it, and the design has done a great job of checking all those boxes. So for us, it seems like a very traditional racecar in a lot of ways. I think it’s going to lend itself to some great racing and let’s be honest – it looks a lot better, too.
POW: What’s the biggest difference in how the car feels now with the new aero kits?
JH: Well, it depends on what type of track we’re talking. When we’re talking about road and street tracks, you definitely feel the significant drop in downforce; you feel that in the fast corners, the slower corners, braking – everywhere. It makes the car a little different to drive, but that can certainly be a lot of fun and good for racing.
On the ovals, the biggest thing is the stability especially in dirty air. It seems like they’ve done a good job in moving the downforce to the floor of the car. It’s less effective by the wake of the car in front of you, and as a result, the car feels a lot more comfortable when following in traffic.
POW: Schmidt Peterson recently announced Robert Wickens as your teammate. What is your reaction?
JH: I am thrilled, honestly. For me, we’ve been looking for the 2018 season to put a strong guy into the second car, and Robby comes with a ton of top level racing experience. On top of that, he’s been one of my best friends for the last 15 years. It’s cool not only we got a driver that’s capable of pushing the team and myself, and winning races, but also a guy that I get along with and have known for a very long time.
POW: Best story you can share from that friendship…
JH: I’ve been telling people fun stories about how we used to stay up and do 24 hour races on Playstation when we were kids in his house growing up, dreaming of being professional racing car drivers one day. We always talked about how cool it was to be able to do this as professionals, but the fact that we’re now able to do that as teammates, it’s just so cool.
POW: What are your thoughts looking back on 2017?
JH: For us, 2017 was a little bit a disappointment. We don’t come racing to finish 13th. Obviously, there were highlights like the win in Long Beach and the podium in Toronto, but I think we missed the boat a couple of times. We had a lot of bad luck, too; I don’t want to ignore that because racing does have a bit of luck for sure. But there’s things that we could’ve done better. As a team, we’re focusing on areas we can improve on for 2018, and we are making moves in the off-season to make that happen.
POW: What areas are you focusing on?
JH: Well certainly for us, road courses was a big weakness. We didn’t have a really strong car or performance on any of the road courses this season, so that’s a big element for sure. And something to help us push forward technically is not only some changes in the engineering, but also having that second driver in the car with a lot of technological experience, and that’s what Robby brings. Over at Mercedes and DTM, it’s an incredibly sophisticated car in a very technologically advanced series.
James Hinchcliffe and his fellow Verizon IndyCar Series cars will kick off the 2018 season in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 12.
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